1191 Tasting Notes
Someone on Steepster once described the spontaneous purchase of tea one doesn’t actually really need as a Bad Dog! moment. I can’t remember who it was. Was it you? Anyway, I had one the other day, stopping in at Fru P on the way home from work and making off with the last one of her tea sample Christmas calendars. She had been uncertain about whether or not it was a good idea and whether people would buy them, but they’re all sold out now. 24 samples in a basket which will be useful for other things afterwards. Has a good size for a bread basket, actually. Bad dog! :p
Here’s another one I received from Scheherazade. This one was one I had asked for and I’ve been looking forward to it, I think for obvious reasons.
I have noticed that the sweetness of vanilla frequently works very well on an Assam base. Some of my favourite vanilla teas have been Assam based (although I don’t believe the Perfect Vanilla is. Don’t know what that is, but I don’t think it’s Assam), and I don’t really see any reason why the same should not be the case with caramel. Both are sweet flavours. On top of that, I know from experience that these two flavours also go very well together, but for some reason it’s not really a combination I see very often. If it happens, it’s usually along with something else. A fruit or berry or some kind, but very very rarely on their own like this. If you want this combination, it seems you generally have to mix vanilla and caramel flavoured teas together yourself and hope that the bases of the two and the balance of flavouring in them match each other. I find this is more difficult than one would think. Often one tends to overpower the other.
But anyway! Here is a rare beast of a caramel and vanilla flavoured tea with nothing else in it. And on a promising base to boot.
Awwwww! We interrupt this post by telling you that Luna the Lap-Cat just came running through the kitchen, meowing like crazy, before jumping onto my lap where she’s now purring and impeding both typing and tea-tasting. Don’t know how I’m supposed to drink from my very full mug (I did a me) now without risking spilling on her… That’s how we know it’s getting colder; Luna seeking to spend as much time as possible in a warm lap. We now return you to your scheduled tea post.
The leaves in the little bag smells awesomely sweet of both vanilla and caramel. I can’t really tell about the base there, but they are very large leaves and a bit difficult to measure out. I have enough for two small pots, so there’s half of it left now. I did consider having it with Husband the other day instead of Jewelled Apple, but then realised that would take the whole sample and I selfishly decided it was probably too good for him anyway. After all, half the time the man just gulps his tea down and when you ask him what he thought of it he hasn’t got a clue. This generally means he liked it, because he usually notices when he doesn’t like it. He can drink a whole mug of hot tea, before mine has even cooled off to a sippable temperature.
After steeping, I try to put my nose closer to the mug without disturbing the cat. Probably looks like I’m attempting to do a tortoise impression. It rather reminds me of that toffee flavoured blend I had from LPdT, although that one had cocoa and not caramel. That one was awesome!
Now, if I can get my lips down to the mug, I can probably have a sip. Let me see…
Gosh! What a silly way to drink tea! It doesn’t exactly make it any easier when you are perfectly aware of how silly it is and start giggling. The things I put myself through to avoid spilling hot liquid on a kitty! Few more sips like this and it should be safe to lift the cup, though.
If the base didn’t come out in the aroma at all, it certainly does now. It has that sort of card-y note to it. This is a really peculiar sort of note. Auggy will understand what I mean perfectly, but try to imagine the taste of cardboard if cardboard tasted good. I know what you’re thinking now, but bear with me. When I first saw this note described this way I made this face O.o but the next time I had a cup of Assam, I know exactly what was meant by it. I’ve only ever really encountered it in Assams that I can remember, and not in all of them. The base also has a good deal of raisin-y notes to it, which is also something I tend to associate largely with Assams. I understand Darjeeling is supposed to have these grape-y, raisin-y, wine-y notes as well, but I’ve never really fully grasped that. It’s too difficult for me to get past all the grass to really notice them.
Anyway! The base shines through the flavouring quite clearly here. This is another one of those blends where the flavouring is somewhat subtle, but not something you have to sit there and search for, or, if you like that sort of thing, coax out with various additives. It hits that balance between base and flavouring that I like. In this case I was even able to pick up some characteristics of the base. A tea can totally have this balance without this being possible, strange as it sounds. I suppose it depends on what sort of base was used.
To me, this feels more caramel than vanilla, but I can tell the vanilla must be in there. Mostly because I know it is, granted, but I think caramel on its own when everything really clicks is a darker flavour than this cup is.
I know exactly what my Perfect Vanilla should taste like, and I’ve actually even managed to find it, and I know more or less what the Perfect Caramel should be like, but the Perfect Vanilla and Caramel? I’m not sure, actually. This cup has the balance that I like, but I’m not sure it’s perfect for me. I think I would like the flavours to be richer without being too much stronger, and I’m not even certain if this is at all possible. It doesn’t even make fully sense to me, having a bit of a ‘measuring elastic by the meter’ feel to it. It’s entirely possible that this balance that I’m so attracted to isn’t actually right for me at all with a combination like this. Much to my surprise, my Perfect Vanilla doesn’t really have that balance. It’s way too flavoured for that.
Overall, this is a very good cup indeed, and if I were to be offered more of it I would absolutely take advantage, yet I find myself a little ambivalent about it as well.
I think perhaps I’ve reached the point where I’ve started to over-think things a little.
I felt like having a cup of green this afternoon, so I made a small pot of this one that Auggy has shared with me. It was Husband’s choice. Once again we were amused by how well-travelled this tea is. English company all the way from the US. :D
The leaf smells very EG-y and I didn’t really pick up much of the base tea at all. I’m not surprised at that. I find it’s often the case with flavoured tea that isn’t black or to some extent oolong (depending on the type of oolong) that the flavouring drowns the smell of the tea. I have learned, however, that this does not really have to be something to cause concern. After steeping, it smells much more green and EG in balance with each other.
I’ve always had a bit of difficulty with the whole EG Green concept because bergamot is a strong flavour in itself so I’ve never really understood how the mixture with something more delicate could possibly work. It just never fails to surprise me when it does. The bergamot in this is actually relatively mild (for bergamot) and it does make me feel like I’m drinking green tea rather than hot water with dusty bergamot in it, which is always my worry with these things.
I don’t really drink much in the way of green tea and when I do buy one it’s usually because it’s flavoured with something that sounds really nice. Earl Grey has just never really been in that category for me, so although this is nice enough, it’s not something I would go out and buy for myself.
This isn’t actually really a tea. At all. It consists of tiny bits of hazelnut, (very bitter, very dry) chocolate bits and dried black currant. That is all. There’s no leaf what so ever of any kind in sight here. Mrs P told me to brew it up as though it was a chai, which I thought sounded reasonable, but once I actually wanted to do so, I was in doubt.
When she says ‘like a chai’ what does she actually mean? Some people prefer chais without milk, after all, and there are probably several hundred different recipes for brewing it in a saucepan on the hob.
I’m not used to chai at all, so I haven’t even got a preferred method.
What to do, what to do? Improvise. I’ve got a mug and some milk and some water and a kettle and a microwave. Half a mug of milk, nuked in microwave to a suitable temperature. Mixture in a filter bag into milk and topped up with boiling water.
So far so good. Except the paper filter wasn’t really working for me so I tore that up and just dumped the mixture straight out into the cup. After all, it’s made out of three perfectly edible things and there’s no reason to act like a wuss when I could just as well eat the stuff as it was. (Wouldn’t recommend eating it right out of the tin, though.)
Then, because I thought the milk ought to take at least a little colour from the chocolate bits, I added a little more mixture to the cup. Very systematic brewing method this!
I had rather imagined that the chocolate would melt but that seems to not be the case. The milk is still far more white than brown, but I’ve tasted it and it does indeed taste like chocolate and hazelnuts.
For something with such a very dry and bitter chocolate in it, and I know this because I tasted some, it’s ridiculously sweet. I think it must be the hazelnuts that does it. The black currant might as well not be there at all, but they taste awesome when chewed with a bit of the chocolate.
I don’t really know what to make of this. It smells great and it tastes lovely, but… It isn’t tea, and unlike the majority of herbal concoctions out there, doesn’t really feel like something that can be drunk as such. Although she said brew it like a chai, it doesn’t feel chai-y at all either. We’re closer to a hot chocolate category with this, and I do happen to possess a couple of different hot chocolate powders. I’m going to try and use some of this in that and see what happens. I suspect that would be great on an epic scale.
I stopped in at Fru P on the way home to stock up on the nommy vanilla, and as usual I fell into a few of the others as well. This one and a herbal mix containing nothing but chocolate (lots!), hazelnut and black currant, which she recommended preparing like a chai.
Apart from the vanilla, her teas have however always disappointed me a little. I mean, they were good enough, but they weren’t awesome. The aroma is generally over the top awesome, but the flavouring itself always seemed a bit out of balance. I’m pressing on, though, because I simply refuse to believe that she’s only got one awesome tea in the whole shop. Strikes me as highly unlikely.
This one also delivers on the aroma. Very rhubarb-y and sour. I have to admit I did get a little concerned about hibiscus at this point, but when I tasted it, my fears were laid to rest. Tart and rhubarb-y, but no metallic side-flavours to be found. There’s a creamy vanilla-y note to it as well, which makes me wonder if there might be some vanilla blended in as well.
If one enjoys a rhubarb flavoured tea, then this is actually quite good. I’ve only ever had it in green tea before, and that Ruby Pie (I believe) that Sil shared with me, so it was the combination with black tea that drew me in.
I’m uncertain about how much I like it. I mean I like it, but I can’t really decide whether I love it or merely like it. I think it’s something in between. It’s quite interesting though, and it’s the sort of tea that really invites you to play with it. Mix it with other things, see what happens. I’m definitely going to try it in combination with the lovely nommy vanilla. I suspect that might be a combination that could be awesome.
I’m drinking this right now. A real post about it will follow later.
Just… HELLO, CAN ANYBODY ACTUALLY SEE THIS???
I feel like sometimes my posts aren’t showing up. I’m not used to getting a total of NO LIKES AT ALL on something I post, so it rather makes me suspicious, you know?
IF YOU CAN SEE THIS, CAN YOU LIKE OR COMMENT PLEASE?
I bought this one at the same time as I bought the honey vanilla chai I posted about earlier. As I mentioned then, it has become a habit of Husband to have some chamomile before bedtime because he feels it makes him sleep better. I then decided to try and cultivate the same habit and am therefore shopping around a bit in the world of herbal bags. Bags because with herbal tea, I’m just not that bothered if it’s loose or not. I’m not interested in herbal teas in the same way.
So I’m searching for something that is calming and also if not pleasant then at least not undrinkable. I don’t care for chamomile, so I can’t just follow Husband’s example.
So far I’ve had a yogi tea with lime and mint which was okay and one that tasted like it was just about nothing else than hot ginger which was most emphatically not okay. There are some bags of just plain peppermint, but I mostly keep those around because when ill it’s the only thing I can really drink as peppermint is one of the few things that don’t end up tasting weird.
And now this one. Of the things I’ve tried so far, I prefer this one. I wouldn’t say it’s great tasting, but it’s good enough. It has ginger in it, but I can’t really pick it up. Must be only a small amount.
All in all a quite inoffensive blend, and that is just what I’m looking for. Therefore I am scoring it high. Not because I think the flavour alone warrants it, but because it does the job I need it to do and thereby provides a pleasant experience all in all. And that warrants a higher score in and of itself, don’t you think?
Another point in its favour: When the box was empty, Luna was ever so cute being affected by the minty smell of it. Makes a very good cat toy! I’m on my second box now.
Additional note: I would dearly love to have some of the Sleepytime vanilla variant. I thought I had found a webshop where I could buy it here as they had a picture of it on their website, but as it turned out I instead received the normal Sleepytime. At first I thought they had simply sent me the wrong product, but closer examination revealed that they actually had the wrong picture on their website. So I wrote them an email and explained that I had not received the product I thought I was buying and please could they correct the picture on the website as it was very misleading. I received a snippy reply that the name and ingredients on the website was for the normal sleepytime and that she didn’t know it was the wrong picture.
She didn’t know it was the wrong picture.
In other words, as I can read between the lines, the woman just told me that she can’t tell the difference between a green box and a cream-coloured box that says vanilla on it in big letters. She furthermore told me that she has no idea what is on her own website.
And apparently I was supposed to read the ingredients list through on something is more or less a known product to me, just to see if it says vanilla anywhere in it when the picture is large and says vanilla on it in big letters.
The word ‘sorry’ or the word ‘apology’ were never used once in any of the correspondance I had with this woman, so in a fit of pique I returned the lot.
This means, however, that I am still without Sleepytime Vanilla and ready to accept that I’m going to need some help from my international Steepsterites if I ever want some at all. Could one of you good people out there be persuaded to buy me 2-3 boxes and send them to me? I can paypal the money for the boxes and postage to you or I can send you something of you choice and equal value in return.
Okay. I’m not sure where to start with this, because in many way this was a very not me thing to buy and in other ways it was a very me thing to buy and I didn’t even get it entirely on purpose in the first place.
Ways in which it’s Not-Me:
1. It’s a chai. I’ve never been able to really get into chais although I’ve tried now and then. It’s the spice mix. There’s just generally too much going on in chais. My tongue gets a little overwhelmed by it and just seems to start looking for the nearest exit. Which is weird because I’m not generally against spices in cooking or baking so long as it’s not something burning hot.
2. It almost always involves ginger and I’m just not very keen on ginger. Aforementioned burning hotness, you see. It’s not something that appeals to me at all. I’ve never been able to understand how some people can enjoy a meal that is physically painful to eat. Ginger gives me that same sort of burning sensation, and pain =/= pleasure for me. Pain is pain and pain is unpleasant and to be avoided whenever possible and that’s the end of it.
3. It’s dust in a bag. This should be self explanatory, really.
4. Proper chai involves milk. I can drink milked tea, but I much prefer not to. I think this is also part of the reason I’ve been unable to really get into chais.
Ways in which it’s Quite-Me:
1. Vanilla. I am, as you know, extremely attracted to any tea which has vanilla in it. Actually in recent years this is not just tea, it’s anything that has vanilla in it. Having found the Perfect Vanilla Black, I am now searching for the recipe for the Perfect Vanilla Biscuit. (I have some experimental ideas to try in that regard, but as this is not Biscuitster.com, I’ll move on)
2. Honey. I am also, probably less well known, very attracted to something with honey in it. I really would like to ‘meet’ an excellent honey flavoured tea, rather than just a tea that tastes like someone put honey in it, which has been my experience with honey flavouring so far. Because it’s not the same thing. But I find the idea of the honey flavoured tea very appealing indeed.
Reason why I didn’t buy this on purpose:
When it comes to the just-before-bed-cup, Husband and I have developed a habit of something herbal, taken in bed while reading. He favours chamomile because he feels like he sleeps better afterwards. I’m not keen on that, so I’m shopping around. I have plenty of rooibos with yummy flavours, but the thing is at that point of the day the last thing I want to do is faff about with teapots and loose leaf. Unfortunately the kinds of rooibos flavourings that I enjoy don’t seem to be readily available in bagged form. So I’ve found myself bag-hunting. Finished a box from Yogi tea and didn’t feel like I wanted to continue with that one, so I looked for another kind to try. As I was looking my eye fell on this box. And Quite-Me reasons trumped Not-Me reasons, in spite of the fact that I was looking for something herbal in the first place. So therefore it was not on purpose and not my fault, and I did also get some bags of a herbal blend to try as well (after having agonised for a bit about the bleeding inclusion of bleeding hibiscus in nearly bleeding everything that looked remotely interesting).
Not on purpose. Not my fault.
So I’ve been experimenting with it a bit. First I tried it with milk, which I had warmed (nuked) a bit first. I followed the suggestion on the box with 1/4 warm milk and 3/4 water. The box also suggested sweetening it to taste with sugar. As my ‘to taste’ with tea is entirely without sugar in a sort of ew-sugar-tea-blech! way, I figured I had already sort of done this by leaving sweetening out. It didn’t say anything about temperature but as it contains both black and white, I took my cue from the white.
It was… pleasant enough, although quite ginger-y. There were the other spices in the flavour as well, but in a sort of generic spice blend flavour where I couldn’t have picked them out from each other at all. It was just… spice. And ginger. Ginger I can pick out, but that’s because I’m so wary of it.
I could not, however, taste any tea at all, be it black or white both of which are supposed to be in here. I also couldn’t find anything remotely resembling vanilla or the slightest trace of honey.
It felt very generic beginner-chai-y and quite thin tasting. With ginger. Which, as ginger does, got stronger and stronger towards the end of the cup.
Hm. Not very succesful.
I reckoned maybe the milk was, while softening up the spices, covering the other flavours. This is why I don’t much understand the whole milk in tea concept. I find it deadens the taste of the tea and just turns into warm milk with something in it. Much like this particular cup did. So I tried a second cup with a fresh bag and without the milk.
I was a little concerned about the ginger here, because I thought without the milk to tame it, it might get out of hand completely. It was already plenty wild for me before after all.
I can actually smell something in it now. Something spicy (duh) but with a hint of sweetness in there, telling me that even if I can’t find the honey and the vanilla in the flavour they are in there somewhere.
I steeped the bag for a really long time, because the brew above had been so thin that I’d ended up just dumping the bag back in the cup and keeping it there while drinking. And it was still quite thin. It looks like a jolly big teabag but I’m wondering now how much actual tea is actually in there. It can’t be very much. Or it must be really old.
Peculiarly the ginger was much more in the background now, which was a pleasant surprise. Not at all what I had counted on. The other spices were still present as well and still just a generic could be anything really sort of spice blend.
I felt like I could pick up a hint of vanilla and honey now though, but not nearly as much as I would have liked at all.
All in all not as good as hoped but I’m pretty certain I can drink this box up eventually. I’ve definitely learned not to follow the suggestion on the box though, because that just didn’t work at all.
Perhaps I should try another go-round of both these versions while making it like a black with boiling water and like a flavoured black with not quite boiling water. So I tried boiling water, no milk.
It was less thin at this point, but still the same generic spice throughout most of the flavour. This time though I actually felt like I was drinking tea as opposed to spiced water, so that was a plus.
Honey and vanilla, though? Not so much. I seem to have misplaced them. I’m sure I had them just before!
Did nobody really see my previous post? It has like 4 likes on it or something and for the first 24 hours it only had 1. This is so unusual for me that it’s almost entirely unheard of. So at the risk of sounding vain, do go and have a look at it. If nothing else then just at the last line of it which has Stuff Revealed!
In the meantime I’m contemplating what to do about the big order from Nothing But Tea that I thought I made. I was doing some netbank-stuff in relation to Stuff Revealed (yes I am going to make you go and look in order to find out what it is) and noticed that the NBT order hadn’t been payed for. Investigating further I find that it doesn’t show up in my order history on the site and I also haven’t received any order confirmations by email. I don’t know why I didn’t notice not getting a confirmation. It’s the second time this has happened with NBT! How the plock can ordering tea be so damn complicated??? I honestly don’t know what it is I’m doing wrong. O.o So now I’m not sure what to do, whether to put the order together again (I think I can remember most of it) or to just try my luck with one of the other places I want to shop instead.
Auggy shared this one with me, and I’ve been a little wary of it. Wary and also curious. I’m just not certain that the corn-y aspect is one that I’ll enjoy. She sent me two of them, so at least it’s not something that I’ll have to spend the rest of my life trying to get through if it turns out that it’s not actually for me at all.
The aroma of the little toucha is giving the corn-y aspect away already. It smells not at all like pu-erh tea, but rather a lot of salt and popcorn. Highly peculiar, but also rather interesting. I’m much more curious now. (Also wondering what Husband will think of it. I can never quite anticipate what he’ll enjoy and what he’ll find bizarre)
Actually, I’m really craving some freshly made popcorn now…
After steeping Husband agreed with me about the popcorn, but I actually think that the popcorn note is a little less obvious now. It’s because the pu-erh notes are coming in as well and making sure you’re not mistaking it for anything else. Actually, it’s almost as dark as coffee, so at a glance and when only looking at it you could probably easily mistake it for a mug of coffee. It’d be some very surprising coffee though. But I digress.
I am still really craving some freshly made popcorn.
At first sip, it felt very sharp and salty, but also a little bit thin flavour-wise. I decided this was because of the temperature of the cup and let it cool down a bit before continuing. Even so, there was still quite a lot of aftertaste to the tiny sip I had, which did nothing for my popcorn craving.
After cooling a little more it’s a much stronger flavour, but still rather sharp and prickly. It’s not as popcorn-y as I had imagined, and I’m not actually certain whether I think this is a good thing or a bad thing. It’s a pu-erh, it’s not a corn-flavoured tea. It has picked up some corn-y sort of characteristics though. It’s not really so much flavour as it’s mouth feel. My mouth feels much the same was as when I’ve had corn soup or corn bread or similar. I made corn bread once, actually, and was vastly disappointed by it. Turns out I don’t like corn bread at all, largely because of this particular mouth feel. It was just WAY too much corn. This is tempered by there also being the strong notes of just pu-erh tea and that funny sharp note that I mentioned. It’s familiar to me, but I can’t work out what it is.
All in all, it’s not bad this, but it’s not exactly awesome either. I wouldn’t go out of my way for it.
Now go look at my previous post.
Auggy shared this one with me. A couple of years ago I received an education in Jin Jun Mei as a type from someone here on Steepster. I believe it may have been Spoonvonstrup (who hasn’t been around lately, what’s up with that?) but I can’t remember for certain. At the time I got some JJMs that were produced in Yunnan and some that were produced in Fujian, and I came to the conclusion that while I enjoyed them all, I greatly preferred the Fujian ones.
Biiiiiig surprise to everyone present, I’m sure.
Anyway, I know the type and I know it’s one that I like, so I was happy that Auggy had shared hers with me. I’m not the least bit surprised that it would by a type she would be interested in. In fact, knowing Auggy and knowing me and knowing how closely our tea-tastes often match, I’d have been immensely shocked if she hadn’t bothered at all.
Back when I received the aforementioned JJM education, I did actually also receive a sample of this one. I’m afraid I gave it a somewhat lack-luster rating, but that must have been a different harvest. It could easily be that this one suits me better or that my taste has changed a little. Therefore I’m not particularly concerned about that now.
The aroma of the leaves here was rather odd. There isn’t really very much of it and what is there reminds me mostly about the Oriental Beauty oolong I wrote about earlier. I remembered smokyness and grain and such. What happened?
Oh well, it’s not the smell of the dry leaf that counts. It’s the aroma of the brew and the flavour that counts, so we’ll see how that turns out. I’m still not put off.
Oh yeah, this is a different story! Now it’s all grainy and thick and malty. In regards to the malt, it’s an almost syrup-y sort of smell. It’s actually very sweet when you really get your nose into it. I’m thinking chocolate and caramel here. Dark, dark ones, but still.
As for the flavour, first off it does have that Yunnan-y taste of hay, which… I could live without, frankly, but it’s not super-strong. After that it goes all out on the grain and the malt, and it gives me that association to Danish rye bread that I look for in a really great keemun. The dark dark chocolate-y caramel-y sort of malty note is making up a good deal of the body along with the grain. It’s fairly discreet, but once you’ve noticed it you find that it’s all over. I rather like that.
Now, I’ve looked up what I said about this the first time, and let’s just say that I don’t agree with myself at all. Back then, I had a sort of two-step experience of the flavour, which I’m not getting at all today. It’s very well merged this time. I suppose that’s a pretty good illustration of differences between harvests. Especially with wild-picked stuff like this, I imagine.
Raising the rating accordingly (and significantly). I may actually invest in some more of this myself in the future. We’ll see.
Strangely, though, Husband didn’t care for it at all. He found it tannin-y. But but but it’s Chinese! A Chinese black doesn’t even know what tannin is! Shocking. Also kind of funny because I count this one in the same sort of general family as keemuns and the Laoshan Black and such like which he enjoys, the latter even to the point of being renamed Life-Giving Tea. I just can’t get a grip on what I think he’ll enjoy and what he won’t. I’m coming to the conclusion that his tongue must be in upside down or something. Or broken.
Oh, and by the way, we bought a house.